Being a leader…

Had an interesting discussion with the BO’s 8 year old daughter who is taking lessons at another stable. This is a great thing as it gets her out with others, and on other horses she can canter and gain confidence upon, so my posting this isn’t about her so much as a pattern of thinking I’ve seen again and again from children, to teens to adults when it comes to thinking about horses.

She was telling me about a lesson horse who had bucked it’s student off. In talking and trying to get a better picture of what happened (as she clearly found it an exciting story she wanted to tell me about), it was revealed that the horse doesn’t have much training.

Me: So whose fault is it that the horse doesn’t have enough training to do what he is being asked?

Her: (responding confidently) The Horse!

Me: So you are saying that it is the horses’ responsiblity for not having enough training to do what the the rider wanted him to do?

Her: Yes!

This went around for a few moments until I finally had to laugh and say, “really now? Listen to what you are saying. Who is responsible for the lack of training – the horse who doesn’t know how to train itself for riding… or the people who are in charge of the horse?”

She didn’t get it but then she’s only eight so we’ll cut her some slack.

There’s a  lot of talk about being the Alpha and the Leader with the horse. Some people are against this idea and would rather be the horses’ friend. Others’ are uncomfortable with a position of power. Some think of being in this position as abuse, and yes, indeed it has been abused, as positions of power often are by greedy and insensitive people.

For me, being my horses’ leader – coach, mentor, guide, teacher and parent is not a difficult role for me. Because I understand with it comes the Ultimate Responsibility – something others who crave to be leader and who use harsh disciplinary methods to gain it – FORGET…

Responsbility means I am in charge of feed, shelter, water, vet care, farrier care, and anything else that needs to be done to ensure my horse friends their health and happiness. This is quite a financial cost.

And sometimes it means making the Ultimate Decision to say goodbye. For anyone who sincerely loves their animals, this alone can be a heavy price.

It means I must be respectful of what the horse can and cannot do whether that be from the horses’ genetics, physical drawbacks, it’s health, it’s endurance, it’s age or it’s lack of training.

It means I hold myself ultimately responsible for anything my horse does. If Z bucked me off, then I had pushed her training and didn’t read her signals correctly. If T can’t take the canter, I must evaulate if his arthritis is hampering him. If Pony doesn’t want to be ridden EVER AGAIN BY ANYONE, I must respect that and find something else she wants to do and then provide it for her.

Those who don’t understand the responsiblity and burden of being a leader, but calls themselves one, have a crown on their head but no kingdom of faithful subjects.

This entry was posted in Essays, Trainers/ing, Training and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Being a leader…

  1. Kate says:

    I have to respect the horse for the horse to respect me. Yes, I’m the leader, but a respectful one. If my horse does something I don’t want, or doesn’t do what I ask, 99.99% of the time it’s either because a) the horse can’t do it – some physical or pain issue is interfering, or b) the horse didn’t understand what I wanted because I didn’t communicate well enough. There are exceptions, but they’re usually because someone has already messed up the horse through improper training or even abuse. Nice post!

    • horseideology says:

      Thanks Kate. It has been rattling around in my head for some time how NH people throw around the word leader but yet never discuss that this is a 2-way street.

      If we accept the position of leadership for our horses, then we must also accept all the duties of that position. Not to do so, means we are not a true leader at all, no matter how many tackless leads you get in a roundpen. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Round pens vs. Square arenas « Horse Ideology

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